As a perfectionist, my pursuit of writing is an oxymoron. Staring at my first drafts often leaves me feeling worthless, a deep disappointment that I didn’t get it right the first time.
Frustrated, I find myself asking two things: How can I recover from feelings of failure? And how can I possibly keep writing after I’ve labeled my own work as terrible? Two lessons from Stephen King’s On Writing help me bypass my insecurities.
All first drafts are terrible. Taking my favorite authors and screenplays—each work (and its writer) suffered through a first draft as well; we are not alone. The process is universal and if we just work through it, we will make our way to the not-so-terrible second draft.
Change the perception. The terrible first draft is the disguise of the potential draft, the hopeful draft, the first step to the final draft, the humble beginning of something great. By keeping this in mind, I’ve come to appreciate my infantile steps towards a completed work of art. I’ve learned to love my writing at its first step as much as at its last.
I’ve realized that there isn’t a single fix for the feelings of failure—it’s an ongoing battle we constantly have to be prepared to fight. We have to arm ourselves with reassurance that terrible first drafts are essential. King states that when it comes to writing, “You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” Now, each time I start a new essay—well, it doesn’t seem so terrible.
Virtual Writing Center Peer Consultant